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Honda - now it is official

THE Honda Motor Corporation has finally confirmed that it is going ahead with its own Formula 1 team, bringing to an end speculation that the Japanese carmaker might be buying into an existing Grand Prix team. Rumors had suggested that a deal was being discussed with Jordan, which is running Mugen-developed Honda V10 engines at the moment.

At a press conference in Tokyo, Honda President Hiroyuki Yoshino said that the Honda F1 team would be ready for the 2000 season and that the company planned to build "not only the engine but also the chassis". Yoshino added that the F1 program was being seen as a way of strengthening the identity of Honda around the world.

As we have been predicting for some months the Honda F1 team will be based at premises in Bracknell, in Berkshire, and we believe that the operation already employs almost 100 people - many of them being refugees from Tyrrell - the old Ockham factory being only 12 miles from the new Honda base. The Honda F1 team is being led by former Tyrrell managing-director Dr. Harvey Postlethwaite and includes ex-Tyrrell men Rupert Manwaring (who was spotted wearing a Honda F1 pass at the Japanese GP) and Steve Nielsen. The group of ex-Tyrrell design engineers - who had been working in Leatherhead - have now been integrated into the Bracknell operation. As the team was in no position to build any cars, the prototype Honda F1 cars were built by Dallara Automobili in Italy and, according to Yoshino, one of these tested in Italy on December 15. This seems to have been a shakedown test at the little known Varano circuit, where Dallara Automobili is based.

Four prototype F1 chassis have been built at Dallara and will be used to test in the course of the next few months. The 2000 car will be designed and built in Britain, with Honda engineers being posted to Bracknell to learn the skills of composite engineering. It is expected that Satoru Nakajima - who remains the best-known figure in Japanese motorsport - will be presented as the front man for the Honda F1 team.

The move into F1 highlights a shift in Honda's emphasis away from mainstream car production to a sportier image which coincides with the recently unveiled plans to enter the sportscar market with the S2000 roadster. The car is aimed at the American market but reflects the company's heritage in the sportscar arena. The first Honda car was the S500 roadster in 1963.s

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